II Corinthians 5:17-21

Sunday, January 26th, 2014

Text: II Corinthians 5:17-21



We have been looking at Paul's motives as a minister.

We have already seen Paul's first motive. It is -


II Corinthians 5:9-10 - (9) Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. (10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

We have already seen that Paul's second motive is -


II Corinthians 5:11-13 - (11) Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences. (12) For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart. (13) For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

We have also seen that Paul's third motive is -


II Corinthians 5:14-16 - (14) For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: (15) And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. (16) Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.

We continue with Paul's fourth motive. We know that -


II Corinthians 5:17 (17) Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Verse 17 indicates that a miraculous change takes place in each believer at the instant of his salvation.

Therefore is wherefore, for this reason, or so.

If any man be in Christ is a simple condition, which, for sake of discussion, is assumed to be true. However, inasmuch as it may or may not actually be true in the case of a particular individual, if is understood in the sense of assuming that.

It is true for someone who is saved, but it is not true for someone who is unsaved.

Any man is any, anyone, anybody, someone, or somebody.

Be in Christ suggests that he has been saved.

The conclusion of the condition is he is a new creature. If the condition is true, the conclusion will also be true; but if the condition is false, the conclusion will also be false.

He is a new creature suggests that he is a creation which did not exist previously. God has miraculously changed this person who is in Christ as a result of a creative act.

Old things are passed away. The appears before old things in the Greek text in order to indicate that it is the sum total of all old things and has particular reference to the things which are characteristic of the old sin nature.

Are passed away is passed away, came to an end, or disappeared; and it has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

Behold calls attention to what follows and is understood in the sense of look or see.

All things is literally the all things, where the implies the sum total of these all things that passed away.

Are become is have become, and it has been translated in a way which emphasizes its existing result. The use of this word indicates that a change, which had not previously been true, has taken place and that this change is permanent.

New is the same word used in the first half of this verse with creature. Believers become new creations at the time of their salvation, and they remain new creations forever.

II Corinthians 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Verse 18 indicates that the source of all these things which have become new is God Himself. It also indicates that God has reconciled believers to Himself by Jesus Christ and has given unto believers the ministry or service of sharing this reconciliation with others.

And all things are of God indicates that God the Father is the source of all these things in verse 17 which have become new.

God is described by the rest of this verse.

Who hath reconciled us is the One Who reconciled us. The action of hath reconciled occurred at the cross and becomes effective for each believer at the time of his salvation. Hath reconciled implies exchanging hostility for a friendly relationship. Prior to salvation believers were enemies of God.

Romans 5:6-11 - (6) For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (7) For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. (8) But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (10) For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. (11) And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (i.e. reconciliation) (emphasis and comment added).

To himself refers to God the Father.

By Jesus Christ is through Jesus Christ and indicates the agent through Whom God reconciled believers to Himself.

And hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation also describes God the Father. It is a ministry or service to God for all believers. It is the specific reconciliation God brought about of people to Himself through Christ's death on the cross for sin.

We see that -


II Corinthians 5:19 a - To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. . . .

Verse 19 begins God's explanation of the ministry of reconciliation, which continues through verse 21.

To wit means that is, namely, or in other words.

That God refers to God the Father.

Was . . . reconciling describes what God was doing at the cross.

In Christ indicates where God was accomplishing this work of reconciliation and suggests in the person and work of Christ. It means that God was reconciling the world unto Himself in Christ. It was in Christ's death on the cross for the sins of all humanity that God accomplished the work of reconciliation.

The world means the world of humanity (or humanity in general). It does not mean the world of the elect.

Unto himself refers to God the Father.

Next, we see that -


II Corinthians 5:19 b - . . . Not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Not negates imputing, which indicates what God was not doing. He was not accounting, not counting, or not reckoning. It is a term used in banking, meaning not setting down to someone's account. The same term is used eleven times in Romans 4:3-24 with the same meaning found in II Corinthians 5 but translated counted, reckoned, imputeth, and impute.

Romans 4:3-24 - (3) For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. (4) Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. (5) But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (6) Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, (7) Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. (8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (9) Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. (10) How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. (11) And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also: (12) And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised. (13) For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. (14) For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: (15) Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (16) Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, (17) (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. (18) Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (19) And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara's womb: (20) He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; (21) And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. (22) And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. (23) Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; (24) But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead (emphasis added).

God was not imputing their trespasses unto them.

Trespasses pictures someone making a false step with the result that he loses his footing. It is a violation of moral standards, offenses, wrongdoings, or sins. The appears before trespasses in the Greek text in order to indicate that it is the sum total of all their trespasses, offenses, wrongdoings, or sins which God is not imputing to them. Not a single trespass will ever be imputed, counted, or reckoned to a believer, i.e. set down to a believer's account. Instead they have been imputed, counted, or reckoned to Christ, i.e. set down to His account. And He has already paid for them all in full by shedding His blood on the cross at Calvary.

And hath committed unto us, i.e. unto Paul but also true for all believers, is and has set in us.

The word of reconciliation is the message of the reconciliation and means the message which produces the reconciliation between God and men.

Note verse 21. We'll come back to verse 20 in just a minute.

II Corinthians 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Verse 21 concludes Paul's explanation of the ministry of reconciliation which he began in verse 19.

For introduces the reason Paul, as an ambassador for Christ, urges people to be reconciled to God and is understood in the sense of because.

He hath made means that God the Father made. It speaks of what God the Father accomplished in the person of Christ on the cross.

Him is Christ.

What God the Father made Christ to be is sin when the sins of the world were laid on Christ.

Isaiah 53:4-6 - (4) Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

It does not mean that God the Father made Christ to become a sinner or sinful. God has made Christ to be sin for us. The sinless Jesus was made sin by being condemned to a criminal's death, and having to endure the ignominy and the punishment of the cross so that those who are sinners might be acquitted by the Holy God and be free to enter into a new life pleasing to Him.

For us, where us is Paul and includes all saved people as well, suggests on our behalf or for our sake.

Who knew no sin refers to Christ.

The tense of knew indicates that He never knew sin. Sin is the same term used in the previous phrase. It is any departure from a divine standard of uprightness or righteousness, whether in deed or in thought.

This reminds us of a number of passages in the New Testament.

John 8:46 - Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? (emphasis added).

I Peter 2:22 - Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth (emphasis added).

Hebrews 4:15 - For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (emphasis added).

Hebrews 7:26 - For such an high priest became us (i.e. was fitting for us or was suitable for us), who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (emphasis and comment added).

I John 3:5 - And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin (emphasis added).

Back to II Corinthians 5:21

That is in order that or for the purpose that and introduces the reason God made Christ to be sin for us.

We might be made, where we is emphatic and refers to Paul as well as to all other believers, is we might become. Might be made speaks of a potential change which might take place which would bring about a new condition. This change will actually take place for all who trust Christ as their Savior at the instant of their salvation.

The righteousness of God, where God is God the Father, is God's righteousness or God's uprightness.

In him is in Christ and suggests in our relationship to Him as the direct result of His person and work.

We were regarded and treated as righteous even though we are not really righteous.

We also see that -


II Corinthians 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

Verse 20 continues Paul's explanation of the ministry of reconciliation, which continues through verse 21.

Now then introduces an inference. It is the word frequently translated therefore and is also understood in the sense of consequently, accordingly, then, or so.

We are ambassadors, where we is Paul and may include other believers, is we are representatives or we are envoys.

For Christ is on behalf of Christ.

As though introduces the reason we are ambassadors for Christ.

God is God the Father.

Did beseech is is beseeching or is exhorting.

As indicated by the italics, you has been supplied by the translators to aid the understanding of the English reader. Its inclusion here actually confuses the meaning. It is not a reference to the Corinthian believers to whom Paul is writing because they have already been reconciled to God. It is a reference to all those to whom Paul or any other believer witnesses.

By us, where us is Paul, is through us. God is the One doing the beseeching, but He is doing it through Paul or through anyone else who is proclaiming the gospel message.

We pray is we are begging or we are asking pleadingly; and its tense is describing what Paul does whenever he presents the gospel.

Once again, as indicated by the italics, you has been supplied by the translators; and once again, its inclusion actually confuses the meaning. Again, it is not a reference to the Corinthian believers to whom Paul is writing because they have already been reconciled to God. It is a reference to all those to whom Paul or any other believer witnesses.

In Christ's stead is on behalf of Christ. In Greek, it is the same phrase translated for Christ in the first part of this verse.

What Paul begs is, Be ye reconciled to God, which is simply, Be reconciled to God. Since the Corinthian believers have already been reconciled to God, Paul is not begging them to be reconciled to God a second time. By ye, Paul is not necessarily begging anyone in particular, but is begging every unsaved person to whom he presents the gospel to be reconciled to God. It is impersonal. Be . . . reconciled is the same term used in verse 19.

To God suggests to God the Father. The need for reconciliation with God indicates that people are estranged from God as a result of their sin, but God has provided for their reconciliation to Him by sending the Lord Jesus Christ to die on the cross to pay for the sins of all humanity.

It is important to note that God does not need to be reconciled to man. Man needs to be reconciled to God. God has done nothing wrong and has not moved away from sinful man. Instead, man has committed all kinds of sin and has moved away from God.

How is one reconciled to God? It is by being saved. We accept the idea that we are sinners and that our sin has separated us from God. We realize that Jesus Christ Who never committed so much as a single act of sin, died on the cross for us, as our substitute. He shed His precious blood on that cross to provide for the forgiveness of our sins. God subsequently raised Him from the dead in order to demonstrate that He had accepted Christ's sacrifice on behalf of us. We ask God to forgive our sins and to save us from sin and its consequences on the basis of what Jesus has done for us. We believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again from the dead.


Have you been reconciled to God?

Are you fulfilling your role as an ambassador of reconciliation for Christ?